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Maryland Churches Participate in First Community-based Ministry Seminar
By Carl J. Sobremisana
Does your church just exist in your community? Do you use your church outreach program to do things for the community? Does your church ministry program form partnerships with community groups and understand the needs of the community?
These are just a few of the many questions others addressed at the first Community-based Ministry Seminar held at the Washington Adventist Hospital Conference Center in Takoma Park, Md. The Center for Metropolitan Ministry at Washington Adventist University and the Adventist Community Services Center for Greater Washington, D.C., co-sponsored the seminar.
Members from five Seventh-day Adventist churches in the Chesapeake and Potomac conferences attended the seminar, representing the Gaithersburg Company, and the Glen Burnie, Hyattsville, Takoma Park, and Triadelphia churches. There were two principal presenters for the training: the husband-wife team of Gaspar Colón, executive director of the Center for Metropolitan Ministry, and May-Ellen Colón, assistant director for the Sabbath School and Personal Ministries Department of the worldwide Adventist Church and director of Adventist Community Services International.
The seminar was to lay the groundwork for establishing Social Action Leadership Teams (SALT) in each church. A total of three weekend training sessions over the next year will equip each SALT team to conduct a community needs assessment (CNA). CNAs help the teams identify actual expressed needs in their respective communities, which eventually can become part of their local church strategic plan and outreach program.
Topics discussed during the seminar included the “Theology of Restoration” in the community, based on Isaiah 58 and 61. What is social justice as it relates to God’s original intention for human society: a world where basic needs are met, people flourish, and peace reigns? Gaspar highlighted that God’s people have the responsibility of partnering with Him to restore people physically, mentally, and spiritually.
May-Ellen reflected on practicing the ministry of presence in local communities. She used the illustration that table salt is not the whole recipe for making banana bread, but it should be mixed with other ingredients. Thus, our churches should flavor our community in the name of Jesus.
During the question and answer period at the conclusion of the seminar, participants expressed a great deal of enthusiasm and interest to return home to their respective churches and implement the things they learned. The next SALT training seminar is scheduled for early December 2009.